After three delays drastically underestimating how long the COVID-19 pandemic would last, Warner Brothers has once again moved the theatrical release date for the next Christopher Nolan blockbuster.
While the constant delays could have been avoided by releasing the film over a streaming service like Disney did with “Onward,” Warner Brothers and Nolan remain adamant about releasing “Tenet” in theaters, the long-awaited action/thriller film about a secret agent on a journey to prevent the start of a deadly World War III.
There are several problems with this, but each concludes with the fact that “Tenet” should not release in theaters anytime soon.
Showing a blockbuster film by an acclaimed director amid a meteoric rise in COVID-19 cases is one of the most irresponsible actions Warner Brothers can take when movie theaters have already proven to be one of the riskest places for COVID-19.
One source of frustration is the assertion that theaters are the best way to experience the film. As people learned to live in lockdown, many have increased their home media viewing as a way of combating cabin fever.
Despite this, Warner Brothers seems to push for the release of “Tenet” exclusively in theaters. This could be due to the romanticized view many have with theaters as a social space. An executive from Warner Brothers said at the 2019 CinemaCon, “a lot more people have had their first kiss in a movie theater than their parents’ living room.”
Nolan, in a Washington Post opinion piece, argues, “…there are parts of life that are far more important than going to the movies. But, when you consider what theaters provide, maybe not so many as you might think.” Suppose someone enjoys a show or movie while at home, the fact that they enjoyed that piece of media is not devalued because they watched it at home.
Even before the quarantine, the critical success of movies like “Roma” on Netflix show that good movies can be enjoyed from the comfort of someone’s home, rather than one’s local Cinemark.
The way “Tenet” is being promoted also detracts from Nolan’s views on theaters. In the video game “Fortnite,” a new trailer for “Tenet” was released before the trailer was released worldwide. This was followed by the game’s “Movie Nite” event, which showed “Inception” in an in-game theater.
The social movie-watching experience for the trailer in “Fortnite” contradicts the set-up Nolan is wanting to embrace. The flashy player model stood right in front of the screen, and the random background scenery was difficult to ignore. It was not a superior movie-watching experience. Assuming Nolan had control over promotions like this, it is ridiculous that he thought this was a better way to experience the movie.
Nolan has shown that he deeply cares about the movie theater experience. He has made it clear that he wants to help theaters get back on their feet and hopes for ‘Tenet’ to lead that recovery. This is incredibly admirable, considering the massive layoffs and wage reductions movie theaters have experienced just to stay afloat.
However, a single blockbuster is not going to save all theaters. What could save them are things that should have been done long before a global pandemic, like providing subsidies for small theater chains or having theaters learn business models that do not require $7 tubs of popcorn to succeed.
For Nolan, to ask the public to come to watch his movie long before the pandemic is over (with generous estimates saying a vaccine will be ready by the start of 2021), he is asking audiences to risk their lives to save something that may already be dying.
– Brett Owen is a computer science junior
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.